Tick, tock ...

"Tick, tock ..." Continued...

Issue: "Africa, Inc.," Oct. 10, 2009

Distancing himself from pro-surge lawmakers like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-R.I., conservative columnist George Will cited that as one reason for the United States to get out of the country:

"[N]ation-building would be impossible even if we knew how, and even if Afghanistan were not the second-worst place to try: The Brookings Institution ranks Somalia as the only nation with a weaker state," he wrote. "Genius . . . sometimes consists of knowing when to stop."

Democrats on the Hill-like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Armed Services chair Carl Levin, and defense spending watchdog Rep. John Murtha-though not considering withdrawing troops, have expressed opposition to sending more. "The hardest thing I've had to do all year is (get more funding for) Iraq and Afghanistan," Pelosi said in a recent interview with the McClatchy news service. Pelosi publicly supported Obama's decision for a surge in the early days of his presidency even though she wrote President Bush in 2007 that "surging forces" was a "failed" strategy. Now she says that she can't find the support in Congress for sending additional troops. The defense appropriations bill the Senate is considering provides funds for the surge Obama already ordered earlier in the year, but extracting billions from Congress for another will be difficult-even if Obama continues to declare Afghanistan a "war of necessity."

Mission or madness?

Money: Congress holds the purse strings to more troops. The defense spending that the Senate is considering now includes a $128 billion contingency that covers the current surge in Afghanistan but is not enough to cover another surge. Getting that initial $128 billion from a Democratic Congress was tough enough while Obama was in the "honeymoon" of his presidency. Getting it while Congress is debating an $856 billion healthcare bill is near impossible.

Healthcare reform: See above. Capitol Hill and the White House are consumed with their domestic agenda.

Timing: Gen. Stanley McChrystal says the military needs additional resources within the year to avoid "mission failure"-a rapid deployment tricky to pull off even if Obama and Congress go along. Even the troop increase President Obama already ordered hasn't been fully implemented yet.

Dwindling popular support: Polls show that support for the war is at an all-time low. Eight years is a long time for Americans to be at war.

Different mission: Some doubt the Iraq surge strategy will translate to Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters have a longer history than Iraqi insurgents and the country lacks the pre-war infrastructure that existed in Iraq.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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